John Harris, Small Rain

I don't know if I liked the writing or not in Small Rain, since it's naked rather than poetic, but I really enjoyed living in this book for a while. Would I recommend it? Dunno. Here are some miscellaneous things it leaves me think about.

The inside jokes make me wish I'd been enmeshed for long enough somewhere to have my own. One paragraph that might just sound odd to most readers, for example, I recognized as lifted from a Brian Fawcett poem. In "Poetic Words," Fawcett says that capitalism is
an economic system grounded upon exploitation and energized by expansion, a system that destroys the commonality of language and fattens the priests of capital on the divine substance of humanity,
which is how Harris here describes one perspective on the normal subject of Canadian prairie fiction. The moaning about plagiarism among college students comes across as even funnier, once you know there are uncited and invisible quotations from at least one other writer here.

And there's plenty of moaning about students, as well as other faculty and unions and management in the higher education industry. I'm always ready for some of that. It's like a David Lodge who deeply believes the materiality in the closing lines from Leonard Cohen's "I Have Not Lingered in European Monasteries," one of my favourite poems: "My favourite cooks prepare my meals, / my body cleans and repairs itself, / and all my work goes well." Yes, sure, but what if you see this materiality as empty and desperate, you need more but don't have the strength to get what you need?

The cover of Small Rain says it's "fifteen stories," and the library code inside says it belongs the fiction section. But I've read enough of and about Brian Fawcett enough to know that many of the names used here are real names from their Prince George circle, so its fictionality is open to debate. The blurb from poet George Stanley is about the best description I can imagine: "There is less that comes between Harris's writing and the reader than is the case with almost any other Canadian writer."

There's such clarity to his writing that you feel inside the speaker. It's absorbing, painfully so, and I'm delighted to have made John Harris' belated acquaintance through this book. Again, would I recommend it? Still dunno. To the right person, yes. Maybe that's you. Definitely it's me.


If you were from Prince George, or even just visited the city, you would almost certainly get what John Harris was writing about. The bar from the first chapter for instance is/was (building is still there, but it has been closed down recently)across the street from the Ramada. It was called the Roadhouse, and is a hop, skip and jump to Fort George Park. The place he received fellatio from his girlfriend.
richard said…
I've been a few times, Warren -- the detail is one of the things I like about the book (one of the many things I like about it). It's just that I was puzzling over the fiction/non- question, in this post, something I also thought about after reading Brian Fawcett's "Virtual Clearcut, which I read recently but seem to have forgotten to review!
It's cool that you have come here! Have you met John before? I was just wondering because you said belated acquaintance, but that would mean that he has died, and I assure you that he hasn't. Anyway, cheers!
richard said…
No, I just mean the book was published long enough ago that I wish I'd found it way before I did! I know he's still kicking, and one of these days I hope to make a literary pilgrimage your way to visit the renaissance: Harris, Rob Budde, Barry McKinnon, Jill Wigmore, Ken Belford....

Popular Posts